How Casinos Use Scent Marketing

The gaming industry has rightfully earned its reputation as an industry unrivaled in its sharp marketing.  

Everything that a player, visitor or guest could want is ready and waiting at the snap of the fingers, the press of a button or just a criminally short walk. But all of this customer service, luxurious treatment, and pleasure on top must come at a cost. And it does–and it’s usually quite the pretty penny. 

That’s the game for casinos; they provide the pinnacle of lifestyle experience, the utmost quality and luxury, but none of it’s out of the goodness of their hearts. A casino is, quite literally, a money-making machine made up of even smaller money-making machines, and all this machinery needs human players manning its controls. 

Casinos’ marketing departments are where things really heat up. And you have to believe they leave no stone unturned. From celebrity shows and concierge apps and services, to the chance to win custom cars, experiences and free overnight stays, they’ve got their fingers over the pulse of the consumer. 

But there’s one marketing technique that stands above the rest, a real top trump of casino marketing. And that’s scent. Yes, scent… you read that right.

So, let’s look at what scent marketing is first of all–and then we can look at how–and more importantly, why–casinos are using it.

All About Scent Marketing

Human beings are relatively simple things in that we–at least most of us–have just five senses to rely on for feedback in every situation: sight; sound; touch; taste; and, yep, you guessed it, smell.

Casinos focus on–and exploit–these senses to ensure that guests are having the very best time possible, by overloading as many senses as they can. Scent marketing is only one marketing tool used to bombard a player’s senses.

It’s a simple premise, based around the delivery of scents via a range of systems–mostly automated–sending the subtlest fragrances or the headiest musk wafting across a casino floor, encouraging more coin in the slots, a greater urge to spend on alcohol or to allow players to relax more and lose their sense of risk aversion. 

The methods employed to scent a casino space very much depend on the games in the respective zones and the types of players the casino expects will play these games. Some casinos may have several scents on the go, while others may have a signature or ‘billboard’ scent synonymous with their brand. 

Identifying the scent to use is intricate, and a part of a casino’s marketing research. 

Believe me when I say, these big brand casinos know everything about their bettors, from your social grade and shopping habits to your education and what books you read. Great market research teamed with phenomenal marketing segments each player type and predicts what scents will work best according to your habits, play preferences and risk level. 

So you can see that the science of scent marketing is quite intricate, but at least now, you know it’s there. 

So, if you don’t wish to be pulled along by your proboscis, you’d better fill your nostrils with something even more pungent before daring to step over the casino’s threshold. Or, only venture there with a limited amount of cash and no plastic in your wallet.  

Now let’s take a look at the four key reasons why casinos use this form of marketing. 

1. To improve the casino experience 

The number one reason why casinos use scent marketing is in no way suspicious; the simple truth is, they have your enjoyment at heart.

Visiting the casino is all about the experience. Sure you get a few hardcore gamers and diehard enthusiasts (poker fans, I’m looking at you), but for the most part, a visit to the casino is all about the fun of being there and the immersion in the atmosphere. 

Alex Kapinski, of NJGamblingFun, is no stranger to the concept, explaining that “Scent marketing isn’t anything new or exclusive to the casino industry. Take apparel stores, for example, there’s an unmistakable smell associated with a number of brands that add to the experience of the shopping. It’s exactly the same with casinos.”

2. To add an extra income of source 

Bet you didn’t anticipate this reason, either. But the reality is, any idea that a casino can add an extra income stream, no matter how small, will be taken up by these revenue machines. Adding extra income will happen simply by guests enjoying themselves on a casino floor, but there are also smaller, less obvious ways of earning from scent. Hotels in Vegas, in particular, are uber famous for using scent marketing to keep patrons at ease and engaged every day.

One creative-thinking employee will no doubt have earned free drinks for life with the idea of selling candles via the casino gift shop. Yes, that idea is really in play at some casino brands… It was obvious, though, right?

People love candles and people love gift shops; the spend-happy punter just can’t seem to stay away from a gift shop, so a combination of candles and shopping is a match made in heaven. And a candle-buying spree in a casino gift shop? Even better.

And it’s all part of a ruse…

The candles sold in a casino gift shop are made to smell exactly the same as the scent pumped through the establishment. With a positive, risk-bearing, fun-filled experience linked to that smell, guests leaving for home and lighting their candles will have their minds jolted back to the excitement of throwing dice on the craps table. Now, their adrenaline starts pumping. 

That’s what we call a win-win. The casinos manage to sell merchandise and the consumers are reminded of their great times at the casino, thus making them way more likely to return, and very soon. Clever. 

3. To increase staff experience 

It’s not just the guests who spend time roaming the casino floor, as there’s a small army of staff scanning the carpets at any one time too. 

It doesn’t take an expert in the well-being of employees in a professional environment to know that the mood of staff members is vital to both customer experience and workforce morale. So, although casinos may not have originally planned for it, staff experience is heightened and positive interactions definitely increase with the scent marketing used on a gaming floor. 

Let’s phrase it a different way. If you’re given the choice of two identical workplaces in which to complete exactly the same job, with the sole difference of one reeking of body odor, whiskey and cigarettes and the other of coconut and light spices, it’s a no-brainer as to which one you’ll choose. 

A happier workforce means happier customers. Happier customers mean a better work environment. A better work environment means a higher employee retention rate which leads to savings in staff training costs. Better-trained personnel staying longer at a workplace all means an increase in the amount guests are spending. 

4. To increase players’ willingness to gamble

Last, but by no means least, it’s the big one, the one that we’ve all heard thrown around at one time or another: the ability of scents to increase a player’s willingness to gamble. 

You’d be forgiven for glossing over this one and dismissing the facts entirely, but the truth is that players actually can be influenced to wager more when the scents around them are controlled. 

In a 2009 thesis observing ‘The Efficacy of fragrance use for enhancing the slot machine gaming experience of casino patrons’, it was found that some fragrances–the most effective being refreshing and soothing smells–were able to significantly affect coin-in of slot-machine players in a casino setting.

With links to players spending more on slot machines, it’s no surprise that each casino offers a different telltale scent, in part to encourage players to prolong their gaming stint and push in more coins.